Prospective Catholic U.S. Navy Chaplain Ordained Transitional Deacon in Michigan Diaconal ordination of Rev. Mr. Peter Ludwig marks next-to-last step before priestly ordination

Newly ordained transitional deacon Peter Ludwig (left) with AMS Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer (center) and Judicial Vicar Father Mark Rutherford, J.C.L., in East Lansing, MI, on May 15, 2021.

EAST LANSING, MI – The Reverend Mr. Peter Ludwig, a candidate for the Catholic priesthood and United States Military chaplaincy, was ordained a transitional deacon on Saturday, May 15, 2021, in East Lansing, MI.  He hopes eventually to serve as a Catholic chaplain in the U.S. Navy with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).

The Rev. Mr. Ludwig, 24, is currently in priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and scheduled to be ordained a priest next year. His diaconal ordination was celebrated at a 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church through the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration invoking the Holy Spirit by Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing. AMS Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer and Judicial Vicar Father Mark Rutherford concelebrated the ordination Mass.

The new deacon hails from a family of 11 children, of whom he is the oldest. All were present for the ordination, including parents Jonathan and Lori Ludwig, brother Stephen and wife Kate Ludwig, and brothers and sisters Mary, David, Hannah, Lucas, Abigail, Lydia, Nicholas, Julia, and Sarah Ludwig, along with grandparents Rock and Margo Fournier and Vicky Ludwig.

The Rev. Mr. Ludwig is a 2014 graduate of the Seton Home Study High School Program and a 2018 graduate of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Catholic Studies. He is on track to receive a Bachelor of Sacred Theology Degree (STB) from the Pontifical Gregorian University in June.

The new deacon says he began to discern a priestly vocation in high school. “I grew up in a wonderful Catholic family,” he says. “However, by middle school, I became self-absorbed and started living for myself. Even though I still attended Mass every Sunday, I was reluctant to let God work in my life. I had a change of heart during my sophomore year of high school. I discovered the joy of serving others and the peace that comes from doing what I know is right. I started going to confession frequently, praying, and reading the Scriptures. With my heart opening to God in a new way, it gradually became very clear that I was being called to enter seminary and become a priest. I entered St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota immediately after high school.”

Commenting on his diaconal ordination, the Rev. Mr. Ludwig said, “This step comes after seven long years of prayer and discernment. I am nervous to take on such a tremendous responsibility, but also very excited to begin preaching, baptizing, and blessing. I am very grateful to my family, my friends, the Diocese of Lansing, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, and the staff at St. John Vianney and the Pontifical North American College for their support and encouragement during this journey.”

The new deacon reaches this penultimate milestone in his formational journey at a critical time for the exercise of Catholic faith in the Navy. Like other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Navy continues to suffer a chronic shortage of Catholic chaplains due to attrition: priests are reaching mandatory military retirement faster than they can be replaced. Since 9/11, the number of active-duty Catholic U.S. Military chaplains in all branches of service has fallen from more than 400 to 191 today. While Catholics make up about 25% of the U.S. Armed Forces, Catholic priests now account for only about seven percent of military chaplains. In the Navy, 45 priests currently on active duty serve tens of thousands of Catholic Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen spread around the world, along with their families.

At the same time, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the military itself continues to be a rich source of vocations in the U.S. CARA’s annual Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood found at least five percent of the Class of 2021 has prior military experience, and 11% come from families where at least one parent served in the military, making the AMS the nation’s largest source of new priests. The actual numbers are certain to be higher, because only 73% of this year’s ordinands (346 out of 472) responded to the survey.

The AMS is now busy tapping this source for prospective chaplains. The Vocations Office is focusing attention on active-duty servicemen expressing an interest in the priesthood, inviting more qualified candidates to join the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a vocations partnership between the AMS and cooperating dioceses and religious communities around the country. Thanks in large part to the support of U.S. bishops and religious superiors, along with increased awareness and discernment opportunities, the number of co-sponsored seminarians has risen from seven in 2008 to 42 today.

Young men interested in discerning a priestly vocation, and the vocation within a vocation to serve those who serve in the U.S. military, can find more information at www.milarch.org/vocations or may contact the Vocations Office at vocations@milarch.org or by (202) 719-3600.

Donations in support of AMS vocations are gratefully accepted at www.milarch.org/donate.